I went to Cyprus last week and spent it with my family. It happened to be both my sister’s birthday and mine, the first time I was there to celebrate my birthday with them since I left 26 years ago. Unlike here in the U.S., when it’s your birthday in Cyprus you are the one who treats people to drinks or dinner. So my sister and I took everyone out to their favorite restaurant, a Syrian restaurant, where the waiters all have stories of their families back home, or what is left of it. It’s hard to reconcile the delicious salads and dips they place in front of you with the place of death and destruction they come from.
It also happened to be Greek Orthodox Easter week while I was there. It’s a different kind of celebration in Cyprus, less commercial than in the U.S. (there’s no Easter bunny or bonnets to be found), more traditional and somewhat religious. At midnight on Saturday, people go to church to hear the “good news” and receive the “holy light” on their candles, to bring it back and bless their home. Groups of young men explode fireworks (every year some lose fingers, hands, or lives) and light up a huge bonfire behind the church “to burn Judas”, though no effigy is ever burned. On Friday, the day before, my parents got an alert from the home security company that outdoor furniture was being stolen from homes, to be used on Saturday night’s bonfires. As I said, somewhat religious.
My youngest niece decided that her favorite game was to fake-face paint each other, with dry brushes, describing each step so that we could visualize it. Now I’m painting your face green, since you are a frog. And now I’m drawing two big eyes with my brush. We played for hours until I collapsed. She could have gone for a few hours more. My oldest niece, a teenager, showed me the music she listens to and I recognized about 1% of it. She told me that she’d like me to be cooler. I said I’d try.
Carrot Salad with Spicy Lemon Dressing – Slightly adapted from The Bitten Word
1 tbsp harissa
1/6 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 lb carrots, grated on large teardrop holes or coarsely shredded in a food processor
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 oz feta, crumbled
In a small bowl, whisk the harissa with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and whisk again.
In a large bowl, add the carrots and raisins, and pour the harissa dressing on top. Toss well.
Sprinkle parsley and feta on top and serve at room temperature.